[Sinn Fein]

2nd February 2000

Deliberate British Army provocation in South Armagh

Newry/South Armagh Sinn Fein Assembly member Conor Murphy has called Tuesday's major British Army operation in Killeen, South Armagh, ``deliberately provocative at this sensitive time''.

Three British Army helicopters landed in a field on the Kelly Road, Killeen, at around 12 noon, remaining there for 15 minutes. Around 50 soldiers disembarked from the helicopters.

Cows grazing in the field were driven wild by the noise and military activity. Cows in a nearby shed were also driven into a frenzy, where an elderly farmer tried to control them. Several of the animals were in calf and others were distressed. The farmer, who suffers from a heart condition, was also seriously distressed.

Other helicopters also landed close the nearby Killeen School, after having hovered over the school for several minutes. Soldiers surrounded the farmer's property and the school.

After 2pm another two helicopters landed in the same Kelly Road field to lift the British soldiers who had remained in the field, once again disturbing the cattle. Several British soldiers remained and verbally abused the elderly farmer, who by this stage was in a very distressed state.

Assembly member Conor Murphy said:

``At this critical point in the peace process, it is all too typical of the British Army in South Armagh to engage in this type of provocative display. Farmers in my constituency are fed up with this continuous harrassment and accompanying damage to their farms and their animals. South Armagh is a militarised area where the only people with guns are British soldiers.

``Yesterday's incident also highlights the forgotten part of the Good Friday Agreement under which the British government is obliged to publish a schedule for demilitarisation. Almost two years after they signed that Agreement, they have not lived up to that obligation. It is about time commentators used their influence to persuade the British government to implement their part of the Good Friday Agreement.''

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